While the Hurricanes have been able to welcome back one of their most important players for Sunday’s clash with the Chiefs, the home-side will be without one of their most experienced operators.
Chiefs head coach Warren Gatland has made just one changes to the starting side that came agonisingly close to scoring a victory against the Crusaders last weekend.
Anton Lienert-Brown, the Chiefs’ fourth most experienced player, has been ruled out of the match with concussion, paving the way for Tumua Manu to earn his second start of the season. Manu recently signed with Pau in France and will slot into the 13 jersey, which sees Quinn Tupaea shift in a spot to second five.
Etene Nanai-Seturo, who was a last-minute illness-enforced replacement for Solomon Alaimalo last weekend, retains his spot on the left wing with Alaimalo returning to the side via the bench.
20-year-old lock Tupou Vaa’i is also back in the 23 and will be joined by Otago loose forward Dylan Nel in the reserves, as well as three-cap All Black halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi.
Damian McKenzie is set to play his 80th match for the Chiefs and will square off with fellow All Black hopeful Jordie Barrett.
Gatland said the Chiefs need to apply their learnings from previous encounters to deliver the performance they are after.
“Last week against the Crusaders we put on a solid performance however a few crucial moments cost us the win in a tight battle. We need to execute those opportunities to gain the win.”
“There is a great rivalry between our two teams and the boys are eager to get one back after falling short before lockdown. The Hurricanes have some elusive attacking players and are a dangerous team with ball in hand. We know they will be refreshed and eager to get a win, just like us, so it will be a tight tussle and one we know families and fans will enjoy,” finished Gatland.
Earlier this year, the Hurricanes travelled to Hamilton and put an end to a losing streak that started back in 2007. The Chiefs will be hoping they don’t end up on the wrong side of a new streak and need to win Sunday’s match if they’re to have even the slimmest hopes of winning Super Rugby Aotearoa.
Chiefs: Damian McKenzie, Sean Wainui, Tumua Manu, Quinn Tupaea, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Aaron Cruden, Brad Weber, Pita Gus Sowakula, Sam Cane (c), Lachlan Boshier, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Tupou Vaa’i, Nepo Laulala, Bradley Slater, Aidan Ross. Reserves: Samisoni Taukei’aho, Reuben O’Neill, Ross Geldenhuys, Tupou Vaa’i, Dylan Nel, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Kaleb Trask, Solomon Alaimalo.
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